Networking to Success
I have had quite a few followers reach out needing tips on how to network effectively. The saying “It’s not what you know, it is who you know”, is only halfway correct. It should read “…it’s who knows YOU”. Having successfully started a fashion festival out of thin air, which then lead my career to Los Angeles and right the way to Paris Fashion Week, this has certainly been true for me. I have 20 keys tips to success around networking, these are my top 5 – enjoy.
TIP 1 – RESEARCH
Before you even show up to an event “solo” where you are hoping to network, you must do your homework. Nowadays with Social Media, there is often an attendees list where you can view who else is attending. Have a look and note down any key people that you think would be good to meet. Research them; what is their business name, who do they work for, what are some common points you have etc. Also think to do this research for the sponsors of the event, they are genuinely there to also meet a new demographic so have a look at who is sponsoring and who might attend from that company. Maybe one day you might need a sponsor for an event. Remember it is not just about the guests attending. What about if there are guest speakers and if you have a chance to speak or ask a question, prepare what question you would ask? Lastly even the PR company that is helping publicise the event would be a great person to meet and chat to and strike up a conversation with. You never know when you too might need PR and it is good to have had a few chats to different people in the field already up your sleeve. The more research you have the more in control and less nervous you will be.
TIP 2 – HAVE A STRATEGY
Don’t go to an event for the sake of it. Make it count! If you are going to show up at an event and the purpose is to network, have a clear goal that you want to achieve before the end of the night. If it is your first try at “networking” then keep it real, start with something like hoping to strike up conversation with at least two new people before leaving. If you are invited out to multiple events then really step up your game, have a goal to talk to the guest speaker etc. Also have a plan for the event. In my early nervous days, (because, yes practice makes perfect – no one wakes up an expert at networking!) I would put together a plan. Something like; arrive, walk the venue once as if looking for a friend, look for anyone standing alone, get drink from bar, walk room again, if still too nervous to approach someone, go to bathroom, pep talk myself, on walking out, just choose someone to chat to … (or go home disappointed with myself!). If you have a strategy up your sleeve it makes you feel more in control and gives you a plan to follow.
TIP 3 – FEEL YOUR BEST
We all know when you look your best you feel your best! If you are even slightly nervous about attending an event on your own and trying to meet new people there, you MUST be looking your best to really boost your self-esteem. You need to look in the mirror and think “yep I’ve got this!”. Keep in mind for men and women alike that others are likely to notice accessories before they notice what you are wearing, so think of wearing some bold earrings, or men a good watch or a key pocket square etc. This also gives you a great “in” to start to talk to others about … “oh I love your earrings etc” and already you have a point in common. Look your best = feel your best!
TIP 4 – WHAT TO SAY?
It’s not what or how much you say but also your tone of voice, eye contact and facial expression count for so much as well. So; shoulders back, big smile and no mumbling just jump in there are start a conversation. Tips to avoid (and there is a whole other article I could write just on this) always avoid the “how are you” or “what do you do” closed boring type questions. Likewise with standard current news type information eg. “Did you see the score of the tennis?” etc. Instead, take note of your surroundings, and ask genuine questions which warrant some thought and give a little taste of who you are. Remember people love talking about themselves, so make it about your guest not all about you. After a little icebreaker perhaps commenting on the earrings etc, and (if you have no research on the person in question) you can lead in with easy questions like “Who do you know here tonight” which might lead into “What do you think of the venue” if they talk about their career, think of interesting questions like “Who inspired you to get into that field etc”. Questions really can not be written by me, they need to feel authentic and natural and honest questions you would genuinely like to hear the answer to. And DO listen to the answer and engage, don’t throw a million questions in rapid fire. Hopefully you find a point in common after a few questions which you can jump into, otherwise you will find a subject that you would like to learn more about from them. If you are keen to grow your network; make sure you get their name and ask if you can follow them on LinkedIn. It is extremely rare that anyone would refuse if you genuinely have had a good chat and resonated with them on a few topics. Be genuine!
TIP 5 – FOLLOW UP AND PRACTICE
Make sure that no more than a week post the event that you reach out with a quick thanks for the catch up. If there was a topic you were talking about and perhaps there is an interesting news article you might attach this. Of course remember to mention if they are ever looking for a “designer” etc (whatever your trade may be) that they can always reach out. Lastly as I already mentioned networking does not come naturally to anyone, you are likely to be a bit nervous at your first event. Please keep in mind you are likely to really, really enjoy it by your 100th event (and won’t even realise you are “networking”). Practise makes perfect and just remember to have fun, the other person might be just as nervous as you.
Onwards! I hope these tips help. Until next month - Carly x